Dear friends, my name is Jeff and I am a recovering sex addict. Step 8 in the Addiction Recovery Program is “Seeking Forgiveness” with the key principle to “Make a written list of all persons you have harmed and become willing to make restitution to them.” The hardest part of Step 8 for me was knowing what was coming in Step 9 where I would have to talk with people. I had to resist my desire to keep the list as short as possible and just start writing. I quickly came to conflicting feelings as I wrote down names of individuals that I had wronged and started justifying to myself. For me, it was easier to first make a list of people that had hurt me or wronged me. I just started writing who they were and what they had done to offend me.
Similar to Step 4, I took things from periods of my life to really identify anyone that I felt had harmed me. I had memories from current situations all the way back to the bully in middle school and being wrongly punished by a teacher. I focused on getting to the full list and didn’t worry about how big or how small the hurt was, or whether it was intended, or how I took the incident. As I reviewed my list, I then thought about whether I had done something to those same people where I hurt or injured them. I found that many people were on both lists. I continued to pray about both lists to understand if there was anyone missing. Similar to my Step 4 inventory, I determined that I only wanted to go through this painful process one time so that when I was finished I had everything resolved.
The fact that I had written down the names of people who hurt me, with what I could now see were small offenses, helped me realize that I needed to include this same level of offense in my list of those I needed to seek forgiveness from. Both lists were very revealing. They were longer than I expected and I started to see patterns in my reactions and where I was being judgmental or easily offended. Now I needed to do something about it and forgive.
As I set about the process of forgiving everyone on my list, some were harder than others. I realized I was in the position of the man in the parable where the Lord says “I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?” (Matt 18:32-33). When I compared the list of offenses against me to my list of sins written for Step 4 and thought about how much the Lord really had done for me, I started to see things differently. I wanted to retain my forgiveness and so I sought charity. I went through my list and prayed about each individual and the associated incident. I asked the Lord to help me let go and truly forgive each one and then prayed for each individual. I felt a great sense of lightening my burden and increase of peace as I went through this process. This encouraged me to keep going.
Most individuals were easy to forgive because I realized how small the offense really was looking at it from my new perspective. Some, where I felt like the hurt was intended and the offenses were over a longer period of time, were more difficult. One in particular took several weeks of praying, working through feelings, and seeing where I was still being judgmental and prideful. I love my Savior because He first loved me and forgave me. I wanted to learn to love others and see them the way He sees them. I wish now that I had written down my specific feelings as I went through this process each day. It was an amazing journey going from hurt, resentment, hate and envy toward love and forgiveness.
The final step for me was to forgive myself. The years of being critical, emotionally isolated, short tempered, and impatient with my family along with the recognition of the missed opportunities for connection and love over the years were very hard for me to think about. I realized more fully just how much my addictive behaviors had impacted my wife and children and caused hurt to them that I can’t undo. I had passed on some negative emotions, habits, feelings and baggage that was now impacting their relationships and happiness. I wanted to try to fix it all but realized that I can’t. Fortunately, my Savior is also their Savior and He is working with them to heal and to forgive. I needed to let the Savior take this burden from me and forgive myself. This was also the best way I could help my family because it put me in the spiritual position where I was ready to seek restitution and reconciliation.